Why Undrafted?: Kai Nacua

By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Three years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. A year later, we started the Why Slide? series, and this year, it is back. Feel free to email me requests for “Why the Slide?” and “Why Undrafted?” at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely respond.

Over the past few seasons, one of the biggest ballhawks in college football was BYU’s Kai Nacua. He had six interceptions in each of the past two seasons. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Nacua has good NFL size, so it was curious as to why he wasn’t a more highly regarded prospect and fell undrafted.

Sources said the reason that Nacua went undrafted was because he lacks NFL speed. Evaluators thought that he would have problems running with pro receivers. That was the concern that caused Nacua to not get selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.

After going undrafted, Nacua signed with the Cleveland Browns, and that was a great landing spot for him as the Browns are wide open at the safety position. First-rounder Jabrill Peppers will be penciled in as a starter at strong safety, but Peppers has coverage issues and produced only one interception in college, and that came off a tipped pass. Peppers will take one roster spot, so Nacua will have to compete with Derrick Kindred, Ed Reynolds, Tyvis Powell and Ibraheim Campbell. There will be three roster spots for that group of five to occupy, so two players will probably get cut. Nacua also could be signed to the practice squad.

Nacua may have more ball skills than the rest of his competition, but his speed concerns could be an issue to prevent the deep ball. He will have to star on special teams to earn a backup role as well. Still, Nacua picked a good landing spot because there is a wide-open competition in Cleveland, and the Browns are open to late-rounders or undrafted players earning a role. It wouldn’t surprise me if Nacua overcomes the speed concerns and carves out an NFL career for himself.

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